Now unless your office is based in North Korea, we all expect to have a little bit of a laugh within our workplace – otherwise what dull place it would be. Especially as you spend a third of your day there.
So you’ll be pleased to know that humour in the workplace is a good thing and if you’re the one telling the jokes – then it could seriously boost your rep as a leader. Well that’s according to Professor Maurice Schweitzer as reported recently in the BBC. He recently co-authored a study entitled Risky Business: When Humour Increases and Decreases Status. He says:
In the workplace context, people look up to those who are confident. Being funny is taking a risk, and being risky shows confidence. Being funny requires us to take into consideration other people’s points of view, and what they may find funny. And being funny means you understand effective timing, and how to straddle a fine line between what is humorous and what’s offensive.
Prof Schweitzer adds that if a person tells inappropriate jokes, be they insulting or unfunny, they are still regarded as more confident, but – perhaps unsurprisingly – also incompetent. The study says:
Telling inappropriate jokes signals low competence, and the combined effect of high confidence and low competence harms status.
So how far would you go when it comes to humour and cracking jokes to your candidates or employees? Do you think you’re funny? We asked some of our recruiters to tell us their best work-related joke. We’ll let you decide if they’re funny….or not.
- “When my boss asked me who is the stupid one, me or him? I told him everyone knows he doesn’t hire stupid people.”
- A job applicant was asked: “what would you consider to be your main strengths and weaknesses?” He replied: “Well my main weakness would definitely be my issues with reality. Sometimes I have difficulty telling what’s real and what’s not.” Interviewer: “Okay. And what are your strengths?” Interviewee: “I’m Batman.”
- “There are only 10 types of people. Those who know binary and those who don’t.
Me: “Sorry I’m late everyone, my car wouldn’t start.”Colleague: “Sorry to hear that, what was the problem?”Me: “There was nobody in it to turn the key.”
Team work is important; it helps to put the blame on someone else.
Why did the can crusher quit his job? Because it was soda pressing.
I went for a job interview and the manager said, “We’re looking for someone who is responsible.” “Well I’m your man,” I replied. “In my last job, whenever anything went wrong they said I was responsible.”
- There is a new trend in our office; everyone is putting names on their food. I saw it today, while I was eating a sandwich named Kevin.
- “What’s your biggest weakness?” “Honesty” “I don’t think that’s a weakness” “I don’t give a monkeys what you think”
- Boss: go to hell. Me: so stay? or leave? I’m confused.
In a 2006 study published in The Journal of Behavioral and Applied Management, researchers found that for healthcare workers, emotional exhaustion was significantly lower among those who experienced greater levels of fun at work.
Barbara Plester, senior lecturer at the University of Auckland Business, says it is simply vital for jokes to not cause offence. The author of The Complexity of Workplace Humour: Laughter, Jokers and the Dark Side of Humour, also cautions about high-ranking managers bringing comedy to the office.
While some managers do retain and use their sense of humour, the potential for causing distress is even greater when you add a power differential. Therefore, a manager joking with a subordinate risks not only offending the worker if the humour is taken poorly, but may come in for other accusations, such as sexual harassment, if the humour backfires.
A special thanks to Jon Gregory, Lysha Holmes, Liz Sebag-Montefiore, Farhan Raja, Erin Wilson for their funny contributions.